John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Greatest of the Greatest Generation

Posted on March 6, 2013

Missing one day of work over 19 years is impressive for just about anybody.

But it is more impressive when the person missing that one day of work started his new job at age 71 and is still plugging along at age 90.

Washington celebrated Bob Michel's 90th birthday last night.

And ole Bob gave some pretty good advice to all of his friends about longevity.

He told the assorted crowd, which included over the evening former Speakers of the House Tom Foley, Newt Gingrich, Denny Hastert and Nancy Pelosi, as well as current Speaker John Boehner, as well as other assorted luminaries like former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and talk show host Chris Matthews, that the secret to his success was to keep going.

"Every day, I get out of bed, take a shower, shave, put on my clothes and go to work.  That's the way to keep going is you keep going."

That and a moderate use of distilled spirits as he called them.

Bob Michel was my first boss in Washington D.C., which gives you a sense about how lucky I have been in my career, and gathered at his party were some of the finest people in Washington, the Michel Staff.

Karen Haas, the first female Clerk of the House, was there.  So was Bill Gavin, the former Nixon speechwriter, and now celebrated novelist.  Bill Pitts, the House rules wizard and now successful entrepreneur.  Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation, gave me my first raise when he worked as Bob's Chief of Staff, took over as Master of Ceremonies from Mike Johnson, another one of Bob's Chief of staff, who handled the duties at the beginning of the night.

Steny Hoyer, the Minority Whip, hit the nail on the head when he said that Bob was the perfect example of a true Congressional statesman, a true patriot and the finest public servant he had ever met.

I like to think of Bob as one of the greatest of the greatest generation.

He represented Peoria for 40 years, and helped define that city as the essence of America. Bob Michel represented the heartland well.

In the slide show at the party, you could see Bob huddling with Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Bob Hope, Charlton Heston, Tip O'Neill, Ralph Vinovich and so many others.  In each one of those pictures, he looked like exactly what he was:  A happy warrior.

We need more happy warriors in politics these days.

Now, he represents those folks who keep plodding along at age 90.   As he pointed out, he is not alone in living long and prospering.  When Bob Michel was my age, it would have been very rare to see someone in their ninth decade still going to work.  These days, it not exactly common, but it isn't unheard of either.

And the secret to Bob's success is pretty simple.  Just keep going.

We should all be so lucky.

Happy Birthday Leader.  You have been an inspiration to me and to all who know you.